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Unions, Dynamism, and Economic Performance

  • Hirsch, Barry


    (Georgia State University)

This paper explores the relationship between economic performance and US unionism, focusing first on what we do and do not know based on empirical research handicapped by limited data on establishment and firm level collective bargaining coverage. Evidence on the relationship of unions with wages, productivity, profitability, investment, debt, employment growth, and business failures are all relevant in assessing the future of unions and public policy with respect to unions. A reasonably coherent story emerges from the empirical literature, albeit one that rests heavily on evidence that is dated and (arguably) unable to identify truly causal effects. The paper’s principal thesis is that union decline has been tied fundamentally to competitive forces and economic dynamism. Implications of these findings for labor law policy and the future of worker voice institutions is discussed briefly in a final section.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5342.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Cynthia Estlund and Michael Wachter (eds.), Research Handbook on the Economics of Labor and Employment Law, Edward Elgar, 2012, pp. 107-145
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5342
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Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

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  1. Gürtzgen, Nicole, 2005. "Rent-Sharing and Collective Bargaining Coverage: Evidence from Linked Employer-Employee Data," ZEW Discussion Papers 05-90, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  2. Addison, John T. & Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2003. "The Course of Research into the Economic Consequences of German Works Councils," IZA Discussion Papers 878, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Peter Cramton & Joseph S. Tracy, 1998. "The Use of Replacement Workers in Union Contract Negotiations: The U.S. Experience, 1980-1989," Papers of Peter Cramton 98jole, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 09 Jun 1998.
  4. Bloom, Nicholas & Van Reenen, John, 2006. "Measuring and Explaining Management Practices Across Firms and Countries," CEPR Discussion Papers 5581, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Macpherson, D.A. & Dunne, T., 1992. "Unionism and Gross Employment Flows," Working Papers 1992_10_5, Department of Economics, Florida State University.
  6. Barry T. Hirsch, 1991. "Labor Unions and the Economic Performance of Unions," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number luepf, April.
  7. S. Black & L. Lynch, 1997. "How to compete: the impact of workplace practices and information technology on productivity," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20298, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. John T. Addison & John S. Heywood & Xiangdong Wei, 2003. "New Evidence on Unions and Plant Closings: Britain in the 1990s," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(4), pages 822-841, April.
  9. James T. Bennett & Bruce E. Kaufman, 2004. "What Do Unions Do?: A Twenty-Year Perspective," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(3), pages 339-350, July.
  10. Steven J. Davis & R. Jason Faberman & John Haltiwanger, 2006. "The Flow Approach to Labor Markets: New Data Sources and Micro-Macro Links," NBER Working Papers 12167, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Steven G. Allen, 1983. "Unionization and Productivity in Office Building and School Construction," NBER Working Papers 1139, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Bernt Bratsberg & James F. Ragan & Jr, 2002. "Changes in the union wage premium by industry," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(1), pages 65-83, October.
  13. Addison, John T. & Bryson, Alex & Teixeira, Paulino & Pahnke, André & Bellmann, Lutz, 2010. "The State of Collective Bargaining and Worker Representation in Germany: The Erosion Continues," IZA Discussion Papers 5030, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Addison, John T & Hirsch, Barry T, 1989. "Union Effects on Productivity, Profits, and Growth: Has the Long Run Arrived?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 72-105, January.
  15. Hirsch, Barry T & Macpherson, David A, 2000. "Earnings, Rents, and Competition in the Airline Labor Market," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(1), pages 125-55, January.
  16. Card, David & Devicienti, Francesco & Maida, Agata, 2011. "Rent-Sharing, Hold-up, and Wages: Evidence from Matched Panel Data," IZA Discussion Papers 6086, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. David Blanchflower & Alex Bryson, 2002. "Changes over time in union relative wage effects in the UK and the US revisited," NBER Working Papers 9395, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Connolly, Robert A & Hirsch, Barry T & Hirschey, Mark, 1986. "Union Rent Seeking, Intangible Capital, and Market Value of the Firm," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(4), pages 567-77, November.
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